Thursday, 12 July 2012


OK, so I'm done my assignment - well, half of it was due yesterday at 5PM and the other half is due Wednesday at noon, and then I only have ONE MORE, please God. And now I'm procrastinating on the laundry. Specifically, the folding and the ironing and the putting away of the laundry. I've done the schlepping, the washing, the drip-drying and the machine-drying of the laundry. Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Passion of the Laundry.

I haven't ironed in months, and I only fold under duress, like when I need to empty the laundry basket of clean clothes so I can fill it up with dirty ones. All my clean tee shirts and sheets and towels are so creased, I think only Botox can help them at this point, but I shouldn't care because it's not like anybody is going to see them, except the cats, and they don't care.

Anyway, tonight, I must iron. I shall iron. Or will iron - I can never remember which one is stronger in the first person singular. I think it's will. Whatever. I'll iron. Two pairs of trousers and a blouse - I'm a wild and crazy gal. Ugh. But I hate ironing. I've considered outsourcing it - it's $1.25 per item at the cleaners down the street. But it seems a waste of money. So I'll do it myself.

Speaking of outsourcing ironing and other housekeeping tasks, is anybody reading Jan Wong's "Maid for a Month" in the Globe? Is it just me or does it read like she's cribbed most of it from Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed? Apparently we're supposed to read this and be shocked! and horrified! at how hard it is to get by in Toronto on minimum wage, especially if you're an adult with children and rent to pay, and that people from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder are exploited for the benefit of those on the higher rungs.

Well, duh.

Here's what I've taken away from the series so far:
Wong thinks that giving up her well-heeled lifestyle to join a maid service for a month makes her an automatic, lifetime member of the Working Poor. Commenting on the rules she has to abide by for a month - no using client's toilets, no swearing in a client's house, no watching TV while working, no eating in a client's house - she writes, "So on grey, frozen winter days, we dine on your driveway. We chew a sandwich on the sidewalk. We picnic in parking garages."
Wong thinks that the aspiring-upper-middle-class nouveau riche who hire maids from these services are disgusting pigs, because none of them - not one! - seems capable of flushing a toilet, cleaning a toilet, or using a toilet. Wong lovingly details every spatter of urine, every unflushed pooh, and even throws in a reference to a pair of blood-stained panties.
These nouveau riche are not at all like the good "old money" folks in Bridle Path or Rosedale, where the housekeepers (never "maids"!) are treated more like family than servants. Old money has class. New money couldn't even buy it if they tried, which they won't, because they're so ill-bred. So there!
By the way, Wong lives in the same riding as the Bridle Path, and has a housekeeper (not a maid!).
Wong's private-school-going, triple-cream-Brie-eating sons think that "poor people" sleep on "urine- soaked mattresses", but now we all know that it's the idle, classless nouveau-riche whose Tempur Pedics are drenched in pee.

Like Ehrenreich's book, this expose would be compelling reading if it was actually about the plight of the working poor. But it's all about Jan, just like Ehrenreich's book is all about Barbara. It's about her aching back, her allergies to dust and dog hair, her dishpan hands, her fatigue, her offended liberal upper-middle class sensibilities.

I remember reading a series in the Toronto Star seven years ago about single mothers in Toronto. One family was kicked out of their west-end apartment and ended up living in a windowless basement in the east end. The eldest girl - I think she was about 9 and I think her name was Chantelle - commuted by herself across town on the subway and the bus to get to St Cecilia's, her old school, because she loved it so much. Because it was familiar. It would take her about two hours each way. It broke my heart. I still think about that little girl - she must be well into her teens now. I couldn't tell you the name of the journalist who wrote that series, because it wasn't about the journalist. It was about the actual families and what they were going through. I haven't forgotten it. That was putting a face on poverty, on hardship, on social injustice, on what happens to human being who fall through the holes in the social safety net. I guess that's the difference between documentary journalism and getting paid to pen a sensationalistic account of how you slummed with the less fortunate for a month.

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